Those names sound familiar? They should, especially if you were following all the news about two Japanese high school pitchers last summer going head-to-head down to the wire. Yuuki Saito ended up on the winning side of the battle, but both were equally deserving and both were catapulted into stardom here in Japan.
So where are they now?
Saito skipped the draft and enrolled in Waseda University where he helped the university baseball team win it's first championship in 33 years. He finished off his first stint in college baseball with a 4-0 record spanning 6 games and 27.1 innings. He gave up 15 hits, 9 walks, 5 runs (all earned), struck out 29 and ended up with a 1.65 ERA. Not a bad start to his college baseball career. The big question now is where Saito intends to go after he graduates: straight to the majors, or with a club in Japan.
Tanaka entered the draft and was picked by the Rakuten Golden Eagles. He's had a bit of a rough start to his pro career, but his stats into his first season aren't awful by any stretch. In 13 appearance (11 starts) he has 2 complete games, 1 shutout, 4 wins and 3 losses. He has tossed a total of 78.1 innings while giving up 35 runs (33 earned) on 84 hits (5 homers), 34 walks, and 79 strikeouts -- good for a 3.79 ERA. His fastball was recently clocked at 151km/h, or roughly 94mph. There is one thing that is of some concern to me: over his last 6 games he's thrown 122, 61, 117, 133, 150, and 86 pitches. At 19, that seems like an awful lot of pitches to throw.
It will be interestining to see where these two end up going. I'd like to see both stick around here in Japan to help get some of the fans back into the game, but that's wishful thinking. I'm guessing both of them are already being followed around by scouts from the Majors. And with Saito, there's always that possibility he goes straight to the Majors.